NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Ann Cantrell owns Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store in Brooklyn, which just celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

She left a corporate job in the fashion industry to start the store in October 2007, just as the Great Recession hit.

“I felt confident from a merchandise and business perspective, but I didn’t know about running a store,” she tells WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly. “So from that perspective, I didn’t know what it was like five years ago, even 10 years ago, from a sales perspective. So I think if I had known more of what I was getting into – as time progressed, it worked out, but it was a big risk.”

As Connolly pointed out, the store is packed with merchandise but isn’t cluttered.

“I think our sustainable, competitive advantage is that our merchandise selection is very well curated. We create stories around each entry point in our shop. We really fit a lot in, but we make it understandable to the customers,” she says. “I’m very intrigued by things ‘making sense’ in the store, putting like-minded product next to one another, so it’s not just a selection of everything a retailer has. And in fact, the blue ribbon means the best that life has to offer, so we’ve done the curation for you, for the customer.”

Cantrell talks about the concept of “cocooning” and the store’s great selection of gifts. She also explains why she feels “really lucky” to work in Brooklyn.

“Such a strong community that really supports independent brands and really understands the importance of spending money in the community, keeping those stores there,” she says. “You know, 2017 has been a tough year for retail – it’s the largest number of retailers to shutter, and we see it all around New York. It’s a tough time right now, rents are high and it’s tough. But I think that Brooklyn community really respects and understands that.”

 To see more Small Business Spotlight segments, click here.

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